The State Comptroller charged that failures by the Defense Ministry led to flooding in the Sharon- area moshav of Beit Hefer, which occurred after a section of the security barrier crossing the Alexander River collapsed during heavy rains in January 2013.
The comptroller noted that many additional bodies – including the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, the Seam Line Authority, the Hefer Valley Regional Council, the Sharon Drainage and Stream Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture – failed to work effectively together to protect the area. Yet it was the Defense Ministry’s responsibility to oversee coordination.
The comptroller’s report noted that in 1994, the Defense Ministry built a barrier over the Alexander River, also known as the Nablus Stream, to protect the area from Palestinian sniper fire. When the ministry constructed the full security barrier a decade later, it linked it with the 1994 barrier rather than build a completely new structure.
The 1994 barrier, built inside the West Bank, included an opening for the river, which originates in the Nablus area and runs some 30 km. to the stretch near Beit Hefer, which is within the pre-1967 lines.
To prevent tunneling, an underground component, included in the riverbed, was built.
The river is often polluted by sewage from Nablus and Palestinian villages, and by waste from industry, including from upstream olive oil mills. Debris at times clogs the opening in the barrier, a problem made particularly acute by heavy rains. In January 2013, the debris blocked the opening entirely, and the force of the water caused the entire structure to collapse.
The Defense Ministry has since rebuilt that section of the barrier.
The comptroller said it was the ministry’s responsibility to coordinate with civilian and governmental bodies to ensure that the barrier doesn’t collapse again, with possibly even worse results. It acknowledged that the ministry, along with the Sharon Drainage and Stream Authority, which operates within the pre-1967 lines, were taking steps to improve the situation.
In response to the criticism, the Defense Ministry blamed civilian and governmental bodies operating in the area, particularly the Drainage and Stream Authority, for the Beit Hefer flooding. It noted that the moshav is located within the Green Line and that it was the authority’s responsibility to protect the area.
The ministry added that the damage at Beit Hefer had not been caused by water from the river, but by flooding from sources within the Green Line, such as Route 6. It noted that the section of the barrier it rebuilt held up during heavy rains this past December.
Nissim Almon, manager of the Sharon Drainage and Stream Authority, castigated the Defense Ministry for blaming the body. It was the ministry, he said, and not the authority, which designed and constructed the barrier. He added that the waste that clogs the river as a result of the barrier’s design originates in the West Bank, which is under the ministry’s control.
“If I were responsible I would tear it [the barrier down] and allow the stream to flow,” Almon said.
He said that had it been up to him, he would not have placed the barrier there to begin with and if he did, he would have designed it differently. He added that the ministry had not consulted authority, nor did it heed its suggestions.
Almon added that the same problems of blockage still occur with the new section of the barrier.
The Defense Ministry, he said, has “no shame and no integrity.”